I could (and have) spend hours on end ogling the windows at Ladurée, filled with macaron* pyramids in dozens of different colors, macarons dangling from fine clear wires, and macarons on holiday in front of painted postcards (if they haven’t done that last one yet, I wouldn’t put it past them).
Yet with all my window gazing, the first macaron I ever ate wasn’t from a fancy specialty shop—it was from the boulangerie with the yellow awning on rue de Passy one evening after class while I was studying abroad. Emily (remember her?) asked if I had ever had one, and before I could say “no,” she had placed one in my hand. It was one of the larger ones, about the size of my palm, as most of the time they are tiny (like the size of touching your forefinger and thumb). It was filled with vanilla cream and raspberry jam, and I was in love.
Fast forward five years to this weekend, when I had the opportunity to make macarons moi-même thanks to Bonappetour, a company that connects local cooks with visitors (or residents, why not) for authentic cooking lessons and conversation. As a longtime fan of the sharing community (especially when traveling), I love the way it allows visitors to experience other cultures through food *ahem my thesis ahem* and home chefs rather than Michelin stars.
Before, I had always associated macarons with total luxury and elegance; an unattainable feat in a home kitchen (which I think means the Ladurée branding people deserve a big round of applause). They are perfectly Parisian in every way, with delicate shells housing sweet-but-never-ok-sometimes-too-sweet fillings of all flavors. I always imagine Marie Antoinette eating pyramids of them at Versailles, surrounded by oil paintings and gilded furniture.
But as it turns out, macarons are fairly quick and simple to make, provided you have three essential tools: a scale (for precision), a good oven (again, precision), and an unbreakable counter or table (for banging, of course).
I and three other Paris-based bloggers met up with Abby, who works for Bonappetour, and headed to our host Bénédicte’s apartment in the very-chic 17th arrondissement of Paris. Remember the carousel in Paris je t’aime? It’s a block away. My own first Paris home is only a few blocks away, in another Haussmannian building, with arguably weirder décor. Bénédicte (the cook behind The Parisian Kitchen, who also has a gorgeous Instagram) has lived on that same street her entire life, in four different apartments. She welcomed us into her light-filled, minimalist (and absolutely stunning) home and we sat down for mini-meringues and chouquettes, the iron-swirled railings creating shadows on her hardwood floors.
Post-pause gourmand, I and my new Parisian friends sifted the sugar and almond meal, whisked eggs and sugar into meringue, and added food coloring to make it pop. Did you know the cookie parts of macarons aren’t flavored, only colored? (I have been eating them for years at this point and had no idea!) We piped them onto a baking sheet, dropped the baking sheet hard on the table many, many times to make our circles flat and beautiful, waited impatiently as they cooked, made the filling (ours was a raspberry cream, to die for), and paired the cookies up based on size, as if we were reuniting socks fresh from the dryer. Then fill, twist, fill again.
Once the macarons were baked and filled, we sat down for a rest (whisking and sifting makes for tired arms, you know) and champagne. We finished the afternoon over plates of lemon, raspberry, and salted caramel macarons fait-maison, chatting about life in Paris, the weird things we Americans miss (full sized refrigerators and fake cheese obviously), and making plans for our next outing together. Not a bad way to treatyoself (à la française), if I do say so myself. ♦
As a special treat for Hardly Snarky readers, Bonappetour has graciously offered 20 percent off your own cooking experience with the code SNARKYBA16 (valid for all classes booked by the end of the year). I would highly recommend any of the offers with Bénédicte! My own class was sponsored by Bonappetour, though all opinions are my own.
*Macarons are not the same as macaroons. Macaroons are made with coconut flakes, whereas macarons are a more delicate blend of meringue and almond. If you want to make macaroons, Clotilde has a recipe here!